Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Saving Throws in EPT

In the realm of roleplaying games, saving throws are, for the most, a distinctly D&D game mechanic. Almost none of the RPGs TSR published during the first decade of its existence included saving throws, not even Metamorphosis Alpha or Gamma World, whose mechanical debts to D&D are obvious and well known. However, Empire of the Petal Throne, published just a year and a half after the initial release of OD&D, does include saving throws, as we can see.

Though unique to EPT, the chart's pedigree is apparent. Some of the saving throw categories are nominally different and there are fewer of them – four instead of five – but there can be little doubt that they ultimately derive from OD&D. The categories of poison and spells are shared by both, while EPT's paralysis/hypnosis is similar to OD&D's wands and eyes are akin to dragon breath. EPT warriors follow the same progression as OD&D fighting men, right down to the numbers needed for each saving throw category. Magic-users and priests in EPT have a four-level progression like OD&D clerics and saving throw numbers that are almost identical to those of OD&D magic-users, except in the category of eyes, where these classes are better than both of OD&D's spellcasters. Empire of the Petal Throne is sometimes described as a "D&D variant" and, as this shows, there's more than a little truth to that assertion.

More interesting, I think, is the fact that the section detailing saving throws is followed immediately by a section entitled "The Gods, Cohorts, and Divine Intervention." The gods of Tékumel are active in the world and (I think) every rules set created for the setting has included rules for how player characters might invoke their assistance in times of great necessity. I can't help but wonder, in this context, if Professor Barker mightn't have viewed saving throws as minor example of potential divine intervention. In the Dungeon Masters Guide, Gary Gygax describes them in these terms, noting that saving throws might represent "skill, luck, magical protections, quirks of fate and the aid of supernatural powers." I may be incorrect in making this connection, but the placement of the discussion of saving throws is nonetheless suggestive, especially considering that D&D generally places them in the section on combat – food for thought, at any rate!

1 comment:

  1. Ever since I picked up the hobby again after Gary's death, which has primarily been BX/LL, I have always attributed the better saving throws that clerics have (when compared to the other Core Classes) against Death Ray, Poison and Magic Wands to some kind of divine protection. The outstanding saves for Dwarves and Halflings I see as either luck or just plain stubbornness. Elves have a magic nature...thus their good saves. M-Us and Thieves start out better than Fighters because of their skill set, but then Fighters get better faster because they are in the thick of things all the time and "learn on the job" how to survive.